Tech for Security is only One Part of the Story
Self-defense is no laughing matter. There is a sad irony that with so many people carrying around expensive, desirable and readily transferable smartphones there are any number of opportunist criminals who are happy to try and steal them. In 2013 there were over three million reported phone thefts in the USA alone – and that’s just the ones that were reported. Many of those thefts involved a straightforward mugging. Once it was simply a matter of handing over your wallet – now there are a whole handfuls of kit you might be forced to part with – wallet, phone, iPad, headphones…
The practical solution
Sadly, unless you hit someone over the head with your handset, there is only a limited amount of self-defense that your tech can deliver. There are quite a number of apps that are designed in some way to appease our security anxieties – we’ll get to them in a moment – but there is no substitute sometimes for being able to physically intimidate someone who thinks that they might be able to get the better of you.
This is as much about psychology as it is the actual business of getting to grips with someone. All the eye-ball to eye-ball pre-fight posturing that professional fighters like boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao go through is a key part of the contest. It might look like no more than a pantomime of macho posturing but Britain’s former World champion Nigel Benn recently described how he knew he would win a championship bout when his opponent was unable to hold his gaze at the weigh in. It’s no surprise that the betting action spikes around the weigh in for a fight – there is a lot going on in there.
Sadly there is no app for an intimidating stare and nor is there one that can give you an overnight reputation as someone not to be messed with. There are apps that can help your training, but that’s another matter. There is also a great deal of common sense self-defense information that has nothing to do with technology – in fact much of it recommends keeping your tech out of sight. Nothing here is intended to counter that advice.
Security technology solutions
Instead, there are lots of security-focused features that will make the detection and recovery of your kit easier and quicker. There are also some that will deter your would-be assailant in the first place, and on the basis that prevention is preferable to violence it’s probably worth starting out with them – unless of course you are already making regular trips to the gym or the dojo and would see a physical assault as an opportunity to show off your martial artistry.
My Panic Alarm is well named. It is simply an app that will sound an alarm and flash as brightly as your phone allows once it is activated. Obviously it’s not going to deter anyone from targeting you in the first place, but if there are other people around My Panic Alarm is designed to attract their attention and in the process deter your attacker.
As with quite a number of similar apps there are one or two logical flaws in the design for the app – the first is to assume that in the process of being attacked you are a) going to be able to reach your phone and b) that you are going to have enough time to turn it on and activate the app. Whilst the technology involved is hardly earth shattering it is hard to see how it improves on the tried and tested method – validated over a period of several thousand years – of shouting for help. That said, there is plenty of research that suggests the more confidently you present yourself the less likely you are to be a victim. Anything that boosts that confidence is therefore not to be sniffed at.
A different slant on this thinking is provided by the Safe Trek app which is designed for use in precisely those situations where you feel threatened. It works on the basis that when the app is activated you hold down a safety button. If your finger moves off the pad the alarm is immediately activated and an SOS message is sent out that includes your location at that point in time. Clearly this solves one of the problems identified above. It does however require you to identify threatening situations in advance. That being the case, common sense will hopefully steer you away from trouble before you get to the point where you need to activate the app.
Perhaps more practical and realistic are the apps that can use the power of social media as a form of alarm. Apps like the SOS IEmergency and SEND HELP – Emergency SOS Panic Button are designed to give you access to a single button that can, in a split second, alert all of your contacts and the local emergency services to the fact that you are in trouble. Clever use of GPS location data means that your location can be immediately pinpointed and there are subsidiary options to identify the precise nature of the hazards you are confronting.
Another variant is the Attack Alarm SMS which combines the immediate deterrent of an alarm sound with an automated SOS message to two predetermined numbers.
Peace of mind packs a punch
These apps are great for peace of mind, giving you the reassurance that all of your friends really will be there for you in a crisis. Similar technology is available in apps like Global SOS which gives you the local emergency numbers at the click of a button. For anyone traveling abroad that sort of information is – hopefully – not something that you would ever need, but at the times when it does become important it can be a life saver.
There are countless alternatives to the apps mentioned here. These are simply illustrations of the sort of apps that are available currently as well as their shortcomings. In reality, in the hurly burly of an actual street encounter, it is unlikely that any amount of digital solutions will be of much use. In that scenario a good background in boxing, karate, judo or some other martial art is likely to be far more useful. That and the ability to deliver the sort of cold hard stare that the likes of Mayweather and co. specialized in. If you can summon up that sort of a look you will not have any trouble wherever you find yourself.